No Public Financing for Stadiums
I've been getting calls and emails opposing the most recent proposal, supported by the Mayor and Council President Johnson, to have Minneapolis fund 20 - 25% of the cost of a new Vikings stadium.
In general I am opposed to public funding for sports stadiums, especially those build and maintained for privately owned professional sports teams.
I can think of very few situations in which I might find it appropriate for the public to foot any portion of the bill for a stadium. I would consider it if it was a publicly-owned facility for a publicly-owned team, for example, or if those who were bearing the costs voted affirmatively in a referendum on the new taxation, as I said in this post.
This position is informed by two of the key philosophical values that shape my thinking: social and economic justice, and grassroots democracy. Too often, government sides with the wealthy against the rest of us, redirecting public funds to those who need it least. Billionaire sports franchise owners simply don't need the City's help as much as less-well-off Minneapolitans do. And too often, when we make decisions in favor of things like public financing for stadiums, we do so over the express opposition of residents and taxpayers. If we put it to a vote, I'm confident that the people of Minneapolis would reject the idea that we should fund a new Vikings stadium. Ignoring that reality doesn't make us serious, it makes us antidemocratic.
So in almost all cases, I oppose public funding for stadiums. But it's almost unbelievable that we would even suggest committing the City to financially support a stadium at this point in our history. In the last budget, we rescinded a promise we had made to neighborhood groups - who perform crucially necessary work in our communities. This ignited an ugly, unnecessary fight over neighborhood funding at the Legislature, in which the Mayor is lambasting supporters of neighborhoods for somehow "causing" a property tax increase by trying to undo the City's bad decision from last December.
And remember what was held completely harmless even as we were gutting funding to neighborhoods: the ongoing debt fiasco that is the Target Center. I'm sure that public support for that facility seemed like a good idea to someone at some point in the past, but for my entire tenure on the Council it has been an albatross, sucking tens of millions of public dollars away from other public needs. And time and again I have heard that those dollars are "off the table" when it comes to cuts, winning out over cops, firefighters, neighborhood groups, etc.
The cold reality is that we are planning for a grim few years, especially if Republicans in the Legislature succeed in cutting off all Local Government Aid. Vital City staff will likely be laid off. I worry that some of my colleagues will try again to completely destroy smaller City departments like Civil Rights. And even with these painful cuts, property taxes will very likely still have to rise.
So if there's any capacity for Minneapolis to generate more tax revenue in a creative way, there are higher and better purposes for which it could be used. Keeping our promises to neighborhoods. Keeping cops and firefighters on the streets. Maintaining our crumbling infrastructure. Sustaining our smaller but vitally important departments like Health and Family Support and Civil Rights. I would appreciate seeing the creativity and willingness to come up with bold ideas about these pressing needs that bring direct benefit to to Minneapolis residents, rather than what I see as unnecessary, unjust corporate welfare achieved through undemocratic means.